Japan: Photo Diary

Japan is one of few countries I can honestly say has something for EVERYONE. Wtih ramen, sushi, temples, cherry blossoms, onsens, shopping, geishas, anime, what is there not to like, really?!  I am fascinated by the meticulous and purposeful nature of the Japanese people that permeates in every aspect of their life. Everything around you, from the transportation to the process of ordering food, seems very deliberate & efficient. 

We spent a total of 2 weeks in Japan and went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. More photos and guides for each city to come! 

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(Not Riding) Elephants in Thailand

Months ago when first visiting Thailand, I accidentally found myself at an elephant camp with some friends after booking a tour where it was unknowingly included. 

Months ago when first visiting Thailand, I accidentally found myself at an elephant camp with some friends after booking a tour package where it was unknowingly included. The place was every horror story I have ever heard: the elephant's were chained up, handled with hooks, overworked and stressed. Ours was so unhappy it shook the handler off its back angrily, trumpeted, and took off running with us on it... whiiiiich was pretty scary. 

We tried to make amends for our first experience and booked a day at an elephant rescue center with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

Instead of forcing elephants to haul us around, we got to feed, pet, wash and love on a handful of them. All of the elephants had been taken from other tourist traps where they were forced to walk in the same circle each day, hauling tourists on their backs while prodded with spikes and sticks. Instead, at this tourist trap, these hungy giants were lead around with bushels of bananas and sugar cane.

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Foodgasm in Chiang Mai

After our stint in Cambodia we bussed it across the border into Thailand and headed north to Chiang Mai (a section of the country we missed last time and swore we would come back for!).  It may be very old, but it is also flowing with tons of people and bursting with culture (music, art sculptures, handmade goods and textiles). 

Sure, there we saw great live jazz music, bathed elephants and had the best massages of our life, but what stood out to me was the Sunday night market. I have been to A LOT of night markets over these last seven months in Asia, but never have I seen one as diverse and massive as Chaing Mai's.

Starting our trek from the market's edge, we sampled our way down the seemingly endless street of vendors. The variety was incredible, with everything from meats on sticks, dumplings, mountains of noodles, gyoza, squidballs, sushi, cotton candy and even rainbow-colored grilled cheese sandwiches. Literally, any food you could want and many you couldn't imagine. DROOL

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Angkor Wat (part 2)

To think these temples were left in ruin for hundreds of years is baffling. They were "discovered" by French explorers in the late 1800's and are still in ongoing rehabilitation today. I figured one page isn't enough to do Angkor Wat justice, so I indulged.

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Exploring Angkor Wat

Before showing up in Cambodia, we admittedly knew very little about what awaited us. We were only spending 2 weeks there and just had Angkor Wat as a must see. However, when we arrive in Phnom Phen we quickly learned about the tragic genocide that scars Cambodia's recent past. With some new German friends, we spent a day at the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum. It was a heartbreaking day learning about the Khmer Rough, who in the 70's murdered 1.7 million people (21% of the population). However, Cambodia's past is far deeper than the recent wounds of the Cambodian Civil War. Looking back a little further, we made our way to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, an incredible temple complex that ranks in the Wonders of the World.

We spent two days exploring Angkor Wat. Which is just the right amount of time, enough so you see everything but not so much that you start thinking everything looks the same and are "templed-out"

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